Schools Boss Klein Takes His Lumps at Town Hall Meeting on Staten Island
Staten Island Advance / December 1, 2009
Schools boss Klein takes his lumps at town hall meeting
By AMY PADANI
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Frustrated educators, parents and community leaders presented a laundry list of needs for Staten Island’s school district at a town hall-style meeting with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein tonight.
The nearly 200 who packed the room at the Michael J. Petrides Educational Complex, Sunnyside, said their children were being shortchanged, and they were angry that they were being stonewalled and lied to by the Department of Education.
Lorraine Danischewski, whose daughter is in a gifted and talented program in PS 50, Oakwood, was told year after year that her daughter would be able to continue in the gifted and talented program -- also called the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education -- once she graduated from elementary school. But her daughter is now in the fifth grade and a program has yet to be created in a local middle school.
"I came to this very room when my child was in second grade and I was told, yes, SAGE will continue into middle school," said Ms. Danischewski. "Third grade, I came to this room, yes, SAGE will continue into middle school. And it’s not."
Ms. Danischewski thought it only fair that the children at PS 50 be allowed to stay together in sixth grade, rather than return to their zoned schools.
Klein said he would look into their situation, and said he plans to work with the CEC on a plan for a boroughwide gifted and talented program at a middle school.
Questions ranged from the very specific -- to which Klein referred people to staff he brought with him -- to more boroughwide issues. In some instances, Klein appeared sympathetic and said he would handle parents concerns personally. In other cases, he passed them along to members of his staff, leaving parents feeling doubtful their questions would ever be answered.
Andrea Lella, a special education advocate, said she has sought a program for her son for years that would teach him common tasks, like riding the bus by himself or ordering at a restaurant.
She was told that to get so-called transition services, her son would have to switch to a District 75 program from his current class in District 31. The only problem is, District 75 students don’t get the same level of encouragement to earn a diploma, Ms. Lella said.
"I'm begging you to recognize that there's a problem and I'm begging you to let us please work collaboratively as a team to make these children's needs met here, so we don't have to sue and make them go to private schools," she said.
Klein referred her to members of his staff, however Ms. Lella said they have not been helpful.
"They told me, 'There is no program. Why do you keep asking about it?'" she said.
Another hot topic was a new DOE regulation that limits when certain foods can be sold in schools. Parents say the restrictions have hindered PTAs ability to raise funds through bake sales and other events.
"I was wondering if you realize what you're doing to the PTAs in the schools, because that fundraiser is the number-one fundraiser to raise money," said Daniela Caraballo, the corresponding secretary of the PS 44 PTA.
Ms. Caraballo said the PTA holds bake sales three times a year that earn $4,000 and that the group sells ice cream at the end of every lunch period, raising about $6,000 a year. The money pays for trips, graduation costs, decorations and barbecues.
Klein said he has heard from parents across the city about the regulation and that he's looking to revise it. He did not give details, however.
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